Professor claims going online might be part of the solution to climate change

A professor of communications argues that increasing online learning could help control climate change.

One expert argues that online learning could widen achievement gaps.

A professor is arguing that increased online learning might be part of the solution to climate change, but data suggests that education quality might suffer from such a move.

Ray Schroeder, Professor Emeritus of Communication at the University of Illinois, Springfield (UIS), argues in an Aug. 10 op-ed for Inside Higher Ed that increasing online programs could positively impact the environment and will reduce their “carbon footprint.”

Schroeder explains that “there are undeniable energy/pollution savings from eliminating the daily commuting costs, greatly reducing the paper product costs, and other actions that shift face-to-face expenditures to digital solutions.”

The popularity of online learning has been rising steadily. According to 2022 statisticsthe global online learning industry has been growing “19% or more per year, and it’s set to be a $243 billion industry within two years.”

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In response to the growth of remote learning, Quality Matters released a report titled “Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE).” The project addressed the current state of online education and how it might develop with technological advances.

According to CHLOE’s report, “True quality assurance [in online learning] is lacking. While 96% of institutions have adopted quality assurance standards for online courses and programs, there is a gap between adoption of standards and evaluating whether those standards have been met.”

Analysis by Justin Ortagus, Assistant Professor of Higher Education Administration & Policy at the University of Florida, also suggests that any move to online education should be cautiously approached.

Online education can open doors that were once closed for many non-traditional students,” Ortagus writes, “but broad access to poorly designed online courses will exacerbate achievement gaps and undermine the fundamental promise of higher education.

Ortagus goes on to emphasize that “[d]espite the growing prevalence of online education in higher education, colleges continue to struggle with how to offer online courses in ways that can reduce costs and increase revenue without harming quality.”

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Campus Reform has extensively covered this trend of remote learning.

In an article published in January, Campus Reform reported on a number of different colleges and universities across the nation that started 2022 online, including UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, and Emerson.

In addition to teaching, Professor Schroeder is the founding director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research & Service (COLRS).

According to COLRS’ mission statement, the organization aims to “provide leadership in the development of effective practices, advancement of technologies, and the dissemination of research which will improve faculty, student, and institutional effectiveness online.”

Campus Reform contacted Ray Schroeder, UIS, and CHLOE. This article will be updated accordingly. 

Follow the author on Twitter: emily_fowler18